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US Changes PEP guidelines

The United States has issued new guidelines on the Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) of HIV which recommends that people exposed through unprotected sex, rape, accidents or occasional drug use be allowed to take an antiretroviral drug cocktail to prevent the virus taking hold in their body.

At present, antiretroviral PEP is only given in medical settings when healthcare workers are put at risk through a needle stick or blood in the eye. Rape victims are not able to access drugs unless they happen to live in a state where a policy of giving PEP existed. As of 21st January however, this will change.

The new guidelines do not specify whether PEP will be available to those without insurance, nor has any federal money been allocated to help doctors carry out the guidelines. However, they are clear in their recommendation that PEP should not be started more than 72 hours after exposure and should be continued for 28 days. In monkeys infected with the Simian version of HIV, PEP started within 24 hours was 100% effective at preventing the virus from taking hold, and 52% effective if taken within 72 hours. Trials on humans however have not yet been carried out.